Slice of Life: Finding Your Dot

Before my daughter started school, she was a storyteller. I couldn’t wait to read the stories she’d write once she could write.

It didn’t happen. Her social nature took over and the words shut down. She was not going to expose herself.

Writing is personal. She knew this, and she wasn’t going there.

She’d do the assignment, as scripted, nothing more. Hating every minute of it.

Monday my cell phone buzzes.

“What’s a modern word for, bear those ills we have?” asks my daughter who is behind closed doors down the hall.

“Ahhh, persevere?”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Two hours later, she emerges, beaming.

“Mom this is so good, let me read it to you.”

Inspired by Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be, or not to be,” (that was the assignment) she read her composition. To me, to her brother, to her dad.

She wasn’t seeking approval. She just wanted to share. She was pleased, in fact joyful. And it wasn’t that joy of the assignment being done. It was joy over something she had created.

I’ve blogged on the assignment conundrum: whether it is nobler to assign or not to assign. My daughter stands firmly on the side of assign and do. She is not an independent writer/learner yet. I suppose most 17-year olds aren’t.  For her, the assignment was a necessary scaffold. It gave her a safe box to write within.

Being an upper elementary teacher, I favor the camp of choice within a genre. Sometimes this is a struggle for my fifth graders. The personal narrative writing my students are doing at the moment is always difficult. Telling their stories is not where most go joyfully. They’re getting to that self-conscious age.

They don’t see themselves or their lives as impressive or dramatic.  Anything other than the standard, rollercoaster story or I-got-lost-at-the-mall story, are avoided. They’d rather keep those simple and maybe serious stories to themselves. Behind closed doors.

Mention fantasy, fiction, even essay, and they get all excited. Anything that’s not personal. Pleeease!

Ideally we will form a community where sharing the silly, and deeply personal is safe and supported. But in the meantime, some may need a mask. Perhaps behind a mentor text they love and can see themselves in or close to.

Inspired by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz’s A Mindset for Learning

Tomorrow, we will re-read The Dot for Dot Day. The Dot could be a perfect mask for some writers. We will read it to find moments of resilience and empathy. We will read it for structure. We will read it to find moments where a dot is enough. Perhaps some will find their dot. It’s not a big or dramatic thing. It’s just a dot and how we found it, and it’s ours.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers blog for Slice of Life Tuesdays. The community you have created and nurtured inspires weekly dots. Read some here.


9 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Finding Your Dot

  1. Happy Dot Day! I will be celebrating on Wednesday with my class since our schools are closed for Rosh Hashanah. I just read a piece by Brian Kelley (@_briank_) which said, “Writing for school may help us achieve, yet writing for you will help you breath.” The difference between school writing and writing for personal reasons. How do we get students to get to the place where they are writing to make their lives better- not just for school? I love that your daughter was so proud of her work and her efforts. I’m hoping that blogging with my students will help them see how writing can really have a profound effect on their lives and the lives of their readers. Great Slice!

  2. I love the connections you make here! I feel your conflict in the choice vs assign world. How awesome that your daughter shared her writing with you all- sometimes a real audience is the toughest for sharing. I wrote about Dot Day today as well.

  3. Once again I am impressed by your reflection. Sometimes it is the assignment that opens the creativity door. We are celebrating Dot Day today. We will share it with younger students tomorrow. My kids love it.

  4. The more they write, and the more you broaden their world with ideas and mentor texts like The Dot, the more they will be willing to show themselves. Experience, as your daughter shows, takes you places. Love that story about your daughter, Julieanne.

  5. Interesting that by grade 5 children are already setting limits on privacy. Good luck on getting them to reveal themselves to you. I know it will help you to get to know them better and it will help them to become better writers.

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